Thinking inside the box

A small, but growing, number of African consumers are turning to vegetable boxes supplied by the likes of Zimbabwe’s Fresh In A Box, PricePally in Nigeria, Market Garden Uganda, and Tambula in Namibia as a safe and convenient alternative to open-air markets during the Covid-19 crisis. 

These online players mainly source fruits and vegetables directly from farmers, cutting out wholesalers and retailers, delivering weekly boxes of produce to consumers, but some also work with traditional traders and make deliveries on their behalf.

Luther Lawoyin, who founded PricePally in November 2019, told Reuters: “When the coronavirus was really picking up in Nigeria, we noticed a spike in our traffic and sales,” with its customer base expanding from around 320 to more than 1,000 during April.

According to Fresh In A Box co-founder Kudakwashe Musasiwa, “We had to find a way of scaling up really quickly because all of a sudden our demand shot up.” The Harare-based company now supplies about 2.6 tonnes of vegetables daily from nearly 2,000 small farmers directly to consumers.

However, Fresh In A Box’s IT system buckled under this surge in orders. Restrictions on movement have also been an issue. In a Facebook post, Musasiwa told customers: “Things really fell through the cracks. This means that many people experienced Fresh In A Box for the first time at our worst time. The response I sent to both these customers and many others is: ‘I’m horrified! I’m sorry! We will fix it.’ … We can’t promise to be perfect, but we do promise to always try to fix problems caused by our imperfections.”

The Sagaci Research View: This distribution channel is never likely to be more than a niche, but it provides another option for consumers at a time when supply chains are coming under significant stress.

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